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Hello friends and happy (almost) DECEMBER! Over the years, I have learned that I am a very visually stimulated person. Unfortunately, when you have children or a crowded house, the visual stimulation can quickly become overwhelming. Add in the busyness of December and the kids home from school and it can be a recipe for a motherhood meltdown (or at the very least a desire to burn the whole house down). For this reason, I now, as Myquillyn Smith (The Nester) calls it, quiet the house before we decorate it. 
I do this in five ways: 
  1. Embrace the Monica Closet
  2. Remove the visual clutter
  3. Take a pass through the kids’ toys
  4. Clear your landing zone
  5. Embrace scent and sound as you set the holiday tone
Embrace the Monica Closet
Normally, I would save the Monica closet for last, but it could come in handy as you do the following steps, so let’s start with it. If you aren’t familiar with the sitcom Friends, Monica Gellar is a total neatfreak.
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Her house is always spotless and the mere mention of crumbs on the couch or a drink without a coaster can send her into a tailspin. But Monica has a secret she has kept from everyone, even her boyfriend! She has a closet where she hides anything she doesn’t want out. And that closet is a total disaster. It is the antithesis of Monica! But she needs it. It’s part of her secret. It’s the reason she can have things out of sight. She shoves them all in the closet. 
The thought of having a junk closet might not be something that excites you, but it can be a real lifesaver during the holidays. It’s where we store any couch pillows we aren’t currently using, winter coats we almost never need, and random bulky decoration items that I switch out on the front entrance table. It also has an old desktop computer and keyboard that the kids love to pull out and pretend to work on. And a giant basket filled with blankets. During Christmas, it also stores the kids’ bookbags and lunch boxes as well as anything else I see in the house that I want out of sight for the month of December. 
The Monica Closet is a tangible place of permission. It’s where you put things for the month of December. Anything you want can go into that closet. And come January, you can open it up and put things back or decide you don’t want them anymore. It’s not forever; it’s a tool for this busy season. Embrace a Monica Closet (or Monica plastic storage bin in the attic if you don’t have a closet).
Remove the visual clutter.
Now that we have our Monica Closet, I want you to go through the house and remove any papers or trinkets that do not absolutely need to be out for the next month. Remember, you are about to decorate for the holidays and bring out all the little tchotchkes and lights and what have you. In other seasons these things might not bother you but can add to the overall stimulation in December. 
A few things I do yearly:
-Take all the magnets off of the fridge
-Remove anything from the kitchen counter I don’t use daily
-Take a pass at the kids’ artwork and decide what to trash and what to save (most gets trashed, TBH)
Bonus: Once you clear the kids artwork, you have a clean slate for the many festive drawings they will likely bring home leading up to Christmas. Hang those up and you have instant decorations! I simply use clothespins and a piece of twine (see below).
IDEA: I know many people use their Christmas decoration bins to hold the items the Christmas decorations replace. That way post-Christmas it is an easy swap back. This could be a great solution if you are low on storage or don’t have a Monica Closet. 
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Take a pass through the kids’ toys
Go through the toys and get rid of any that are broken, have missing pieces, or are no longer played with. If your children are older they can help. If they are two, they will likely make it much harder to do. Trust me on that one. Either way, this gives you an opportunity to see what they have and make a game plan for new toys coming in. We use toy bins and I personally love it if I can have 1-2 bins completely empty before Christmas. It helps me know I have a place ready and waiting for new toys that come in. 
*This is also an easy opportunity to discuss giving some toys (that are in really good condition) away at Christmas, and help them to understand that not all children receive presents at Christmas.
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Clear your landing zone
The entryway is the first thing you see when you walk in the door. During the busy holiday season, I like to keep it as clear as possible. Bookbags and lunch boxes that are normally stored by the door make their way to the Monica Closet. Any random item that has somehow made its way to the front entry is taken back to where it belongs. Any returns sitting by the door are returned pronto (before stores get busy!). 
Basically, make your landing zone as bare bones as you can. It will be the first thing you see when you get home and the lack of visual clutter will bless you. Bonus: clearing it might give you a spot to put a Christmas decoration you love that could greet you everytime you come home. 
The below picture is my landing zone prior to quieting my home. Bookbags hanging, random items that don't belong there, and things up top that need to be returned. This is not what I want to see! I will get this down to the bare bones before I start decorating. 
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Embrace scent and sound as you set the holiday tone
One of my most favorite ways to set the tone in my home for a new season is through scent and sound. I told y’all in my last newsletter I have recently discovered Pura and love it. I will stick in their Thymes Frasier Fir Scent or Illume Balsam and Cedar. I also love to keep a candle lit in the kitchen (again, Thymes Frasier Fir being my favorite). I also ask Alexa to play my Christmas Instrumental Playlist or Christmas Peaceful Piano first thing in the morning when I wake up. Lastly, I love to put the Birchwood Fireplace (via Netflix) on the TV in the living room. None of these things take up even a lick of space, but they set a calming Christmas mood before I have put up a single decoration. You might even discover you need less decoration if you start with scent and sound!
BONUS THOUGHT: Just because you have a decoration, doesn't mean you have to use it this year. 
Go through your Christmas decorations and decide two things:
  1. Which decorations you actually like and want to keep. Get rid of those you don’t. Donate them so someone who loves that particular style of decorating can find it and fall in love with it!
  2. Which decorations you love, but might not be good for this year. For example, I have a lot of little Christmas trinkets that I love. However, I know that if I put them all out this year with Alberta grabbing at everything she can it might just be a bit too much. Lord willing, I will get to celebrate many Christmases to come and put them out again. Just not this year.
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I am reading The Christmas Bookshop by Jenny Colgan as my first Hallmark-esque read of the year and loving it! 
This article was shared by my friend Ashey Gorman in her stories and I found it really interesting: How Tiktok Ate The Internet
I really do love Carrie Underwood’s My Gift Album. I know it might feel early for Christmas but her voice is so soothing. Also, I discovered my beloved “Peaceful Piano” playlist on Spotify has a “Christmas Peaceful Piano”...BLISS!
Kelly and Lizz of The Carpool Podcast did an episode with their mom and I really enjoyed it. She raised five children, and I am always eager for any and all advice from seasoned parents. 
I have nothing worth sharing here. Sad, but true. 
Alrighty, I hope some of those things are helpful as you prepare your house (and your heart) for the Christmas season. Thank you so much for reading!



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